The importance of active listening - a case study

The importance of active listening - a case study

"We really like the way you challenge our thinking"

Why is it so important to ask the right questions and listen to the answers before acting?

So many of our incoming telephone conversations begin with "I want to get rid of X person", or "my Manager wants me to get rid of X person". This is not unusual in our line of work, but what has been unusual recently is the outcome of the dismissal conversations and processes following our advice. It is particularly important to really understand what is behind a course of action or particular behaviour when we are potentially facing possible mental health issues. Another really important situation in which it is really important to ask the right questions is when the employee says that "other employees do this all the time" or "I haven't been trained".

One particular example was when the Manager had been instructed by the business owner to dismiss an employee who had only been there for a few months. The Manager had rung to talk through the reasons for her dismissal and the approach to take. The dismissal meeting was then conducted and adjourned and the Manager called back to discuss what had happened. What had become apparent in the meeting was that no proper training had been provided in how to use the Company systems and the procedures that needed to be followed. The Manager was uncomfortable with dismissing in these circumstances, which in our view was quite right. The decision was taken to extend the probationary period and to provide the proper support and training. The reasons for the decision were explained to the business owner who understood.

What was really pleasing from our point of view was that the manager properly questioned around the issue and listened to what the employee had to say in the meeting, and acted reasonably when he was made aware of the facts. Good people are becoming harder to find so it is important that we do not throw new starters out like we were throwing out the trash, particularly when their lack of performance is actually the Company's fault.

A few more recent examples have included when it has been uncovered that there are personal issues or anxiety issues that have contributed to the behaviour or conduct and where the decision has been to refer the individual to their GP or to an occupational health practitioner for support. We have even helped a client keep a member of staff at work by providing a course of hynotherapy (not done by us!), that helped the individual ease their symptoms and manage their pain. We have so many of these positive examples of where good question use has resulted in the employee remaining productive that we can't possibly share them all on this page.

We must become more nosey, in order to really get behind what is driving behaviour changes or issues of conduct before we make decisions as managers of people. At CHaRM we would be really happy to help you prepare any questions beforehand that you think that you might want to ask, but are perhaps not confident about asking. It is a really good feeling to get a positive outcome and we would love to help you achieve that in your organisation.